Friday, December 28, 2012

2012: Year in Review

A year can't get much more exciting than 2012: Paul and I found out I was pregnant in March, announced the pregnancy to our family and friends a few weeks later and welcomed our baby girl, Edith, in November.

Although Edith's birth was by far the highlight of 2012, it was a full and busy year. Here's what happened:

Pregnancy didn't stop me from hopping into cars, buses and planes. In fact, it prompted it. In July I met two of my college roommates in Philadelphia for the weekend and had a great time catching up. Later that month, Paul and I flew north to Canada, spending a few days in Halifax and then time at the beaches and "Anne of Green Gables" sites in Prince Edward Island.

Although Edith's arrival convinced us not to go to Ohio in December as we normally do, we made two week-long trips (in our new-to-us Jetta!) to our home state earlier in the year: once the week of Memorial Day and again in September for my baby shower.

This year in New York, we again hosted our annual February dinner party. In April, when my parents were in town, we all visited the 9/11 Memorial. On a lighter note, the four of us also saw Evita on Broadway -- me, barely staving off the morning sickness that was still in full force.

Fall brought tough times to New York with Hurricane Sandy's arrival. It's devastation resulted in the cancellation of the New York City Marathon, which Paul was scheduled to run for the first time. (He recently found out he can get either an automatic berth into next year's race if he pays another entry fee, or a refund.)

Closing out the year, we've had lots of visitors: Paul's mom at the beginning of the month, his sister and her family in the middle, and my own family currently.

And that's 2012. No post on Monday; have a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ohio Comes to NY for the Holidays

We didn't go to Ohio for the holidays, but Ohio came to us.

I'm pretty sure we wouldn't have had so many relatives visiting if they wouldn't have had the newest family member to greet. But all the same, it's wonderful to be surrounded by our nearest and dearest in New York if we can't be with them at home.

Paul's mom was the first to visit, when Edith was just two weeks old. She stayed with us for five nights, including over Paul's birthday. (It was the first time he's spent his birthday with any family besides me since we moved here.)

I know lots of people have problems with their in-laws; luckily I'm not one of them! It was great having Sherry here, and not only because she happily changed diapers and watched Edith while Paul and I had a lunch date alone!

Paul with his mom and Edith

Paul's sister, her husband, and their 12- and 7-year-old sons came the following weekend. They stayed in Manhattan but visited us on both Saturday and Sunday for several hours. Edith again got lots of cuddle time!

Edith with Paul's sister and our 12-year-old nephew

My own parents are scheduled to arrive early this evening -- more about that next week!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Three of Us

Edith is exactly one month old today, but she's not the only reason this long holiday weekend is significant.

It's also the first Christmas that Paul and I have spent in New York.

Every December since we moved here in 2007 -- five Christmases in all -- we've managed to make it home for the holidays. This year, the thought of taking a four-week-old 10 hours away to Ohio scared us into staying put. (We will, however, be making the trip in January, when we're hopefully even more settled and -- fingers crossed -- sleeping even more.)

Even yet, we're not quite sure how we're going to celebrate here. In Ohio, Christmas Day is planned to the hour: here by this time, there by that time. With just the three of us in Brooklyn, we have nothing special to do and nowhere special to be.

That doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to it. Sure, Edith isn't old enough to understand either the real meaning of Christmas or what all of those wrapped presents are for. But I do. And although I'll be missing my parents, my sister and her husband and my in-laws on Christmas Day, I will also be happy to spend it with my new expanded family.

There will be no blog post on Monday while I celebrate Christmas Eve. Have a merry Christmas!

A happy baby ...

... turns angry when you take too many photos!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Adjusting to a New York City Baby

There were many reasons that Paul and I, upon moving to New York City, said we would never have a child here.

We obviously changed our minds, but the difficulties remain.

The worst part about having a child here are the number of stairs. Particularly in our apartment. We live in a third-floor walk-up, which means no elevator. If I'm going somewhere with Edith by myself, that generally means two trips up and down the stairs -- one for the stroller and one for her (although I did carry her in one hand and the stroller in the other for the first time this past weekend -- a milestone!).

We haven't taken the subway yet, but the same problem will arise in many of the stations, including the one closest to our apartment. Generally only the biggest, busiest stations have elevators. I expect to have strong arms by the time Edith can climb stairs.

A close second in the annoyance department is our apartment's lack of a washer and dryer.

Now that Edith is four weeks old (time is already flying!) we've got into a new laundry routine. That is, we simply do the laundry more often.

That in itself is annoying enough, but the bigger pain is that I can't do it when I'm alone here with Edith, while Paul is at work. When I'm able to cart Edith around in a baby carrier, I'm hoping I can at least take one load at a time to the laundromat in a bag. Laundry baskets and babies in carriers probably don't mix, I'm guessing.

Of course, there are a few perks to having a Brooklyn baby, as well. I can buy her vitamin drops (and diapers, too, in a pinch) at the pharmacy practically underneath our apartment. And Edith and I have plenty of places to visit together within walking distance once we do actually get the stroller out the door. (We've been to the library twice already.)

One thing that we thought would be an issue that really hasn't been? Not having quick and immediate access to our car. She's been in our car exactly twice: coming home from the hospital and taking Paul's mom to the airport last week.

So far, there's been nowhere else that we've wanted to take her via vehicle. We've found workarounds for the large loads that would typically fill a car trunk in, say, Ohio. For example, we get our diapers and wipes delivered -- they're actually cheaper to buy online than in the neighborhood stores anyway -- and we just got a foldable cart from Paul's family so each of us is able to bring back lots of groceries by ourselves instead of depending on the extra two hands we always had when we shopped together.

Having a New York City baby seemed impossible when we moved here. Gradually, that feeling went away. Yes, there are difficulties: no getting around that. But we're quickly learning that having a baby is all about making adjustments. And that's true whether you're in New York or Ohio.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Diane's Top Books of 2012

For the first time in about five years, I'm not going to hit my goal of reading eight books per month.

I've known this since May, when both morning sickness and motion sickness combined to allow me to read only five books that month. But I tried to make up for it by reading an extra book in June and again in August. That still put me one down, but I thought I could make it up by the end of the year.

But then I read only seven books in November -- totally understandable since I spent the last week learning to be a new mom. But that means I would have to read 10 books this month to get an average of eight books a month, and I'm only midway through my fourth book as it is.

But. Yes, another but. One of the books I read in March was "Parade's End." It's a one-volume book by Ford Madox Ford, but it was originally published as four separate novels between 1924 and 1928. So if you count it as four books, then I really only have to read seven books this month to meet the goal.

So I think I'll go with that.

Much easier to simply read eight books a month, cut and dry, as I've done the previous years.

Right now, however, Edith and sleep come before books, as they have ever since I found out I was pregnant in March. Maybe it was the thought of having a kid, but the overarching theme of the books I read this year has to be children's and young adult literature.

"The Hunger Games" trilogy got me through the beginning throes of my morning sickness in March and April. In advance of our trip to Prince Edward Island, I reread the eight "Anne of Green Gables" books. When we returned, I read the three "Emily of New Moon" books, also set in PEI.

In late August I read "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and have been regularly reading the other books in the Chronicles of Narnia. I'm now reading "The Last Battle," the seventh and last book.

And finally, I read in the New York Times Book Review about a series of 10 kids' novels I'd never heard of before, the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. Set in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the first book follows Betsy as a five-year-old. The last book sees her married. The writing style of the books gets progressively harder as Betsy gets older. I recently finished the third book; it reminds me of a Minnesota version of "Anne of Green Gables."

But if you're looking for some traditional adult books to read, here are my favorites that I read this year (although they may have been published earlier):
Want more recommendations? Here are my favorites from 2011, 2010 and 2009. Happy reading!

Friday, December 14, 2012

In the Middle of the Night

Edith is a precious baby girl, but I can only stare at her darling face for so long when she's feeding. Especially on a day like Wednesday, when she fed some seven hours. (I'm hoping that's temporary -- I attribute it to the three-week growth spurt!)

Daytime feedings aren't so bad. I've read most of three books while feeding Edith. Paperbacks are easiest, but I can handle a hardback book, too, with little more difficulty. I can even read the newspaper if I'm careful.

But my saving grace is my smartphone. It has gotten me through many a late-night feeding session when it's too dark for books and I don't want to completely wake up Edith by turning on a light. I catch up on Facebook and Twitter, get tips and advice on a couple of baby forums where I lurk and browse the New York Times app. If you've written me an email or sent me a message online, chances are your reply will come in the middle of the night.

And when that gets old, I've been known to set the laptop on a TV tray and check off some stuff on my to-do list.

My mom has told me how different it was when I was a baby. No smartphones to browse, of course. And 31 years ago, there wasn't even TV to watch -- it was all static in the early morning hours.

I still don't like getting up at 3 or 4 a.m., but it is a little more bearable when I know I have something to do besides struggle to keep my eyes open.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sounds of Brooklyn: No Problem for Edith

One of the things Paul and I were most worried about before Edith was born was how she would react to the many sounds that come with living on a busy Brooklyn street.

After all, I had trouble sleeping for many days after moving here, kept awake by the midnight traffic and late-night conversations that took place on the sidewalk underneath our bedroom window. How would a newborn react?

Turns out, splendidly. Garbage trucks, buses, music from nearby bars, sirens, car alarms: none of them faze her. During one middle-of-the-night feeding, our hallway fire alarm gave a shrill "low battery" chirp. I jumped. She didn't even flinch.

That's why it's funny to learn what sounds actually do startle her. Specifically, I've noticed that clicking a pen can take her aback. At least we know there's nothing wrong with her hearing.

Tummy time and story time with Grandma Erwin.

Monday, December 10, 2012

4 Must-See NYC Christmas Sights

Christmas is right around the corner, and there's no better place to celebrate the season than New York City. So much to do! So much to see! The only downside? It's so, so cold.

But there are mild days in December, and besides: the glow of multi-colored Christmas lights will warm you right up. Here are four of my favorite New York City holiday sights that make the season merry and bright:

4. The American Museum of Natural History's Origami Holiday Tree

The origami tree in 2011.

The 13-foot origami tree, in the American Museum of Natural History's Grand Gallery, is festooned with 500 decorations. Depending on the entrance you use to get into the museum, you may have trouble finding the tree -- we did last year! Just ask an employee for directions; it's worth the extra step. Through January 6, 2013.

3. Union Square Holiday Market

One of my favorite New York City Christmastime hot spots is the Union Square Holiday Market. And there's no doubt it's a hot spot. The outdoor market is so crowded you can hardly move, even if the weather is so cold you can barely feel your fingertips. But the 150 stalls are always fun to browse. In the past, you could buy anything from ornaments to spices to purses to big furry hats. Through December 24, 2012.

2. Christmas Windows Along Fifth Avenue

No surprise here: First-time holiday visitors to New York City should take a walk down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue to view the intricate window displays in some of the city's top department stores. However, beware: This will not be a leisurely stroll. The sidewalks are like sardine cans, and you might find yourself trying to avoid collisions with other sightseers more than taking in the beautiful vistas. We took a look at the windows one winter, and that was enough for me. That being said, they are worth seeing at least once.

1. Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

The tree in 2010.

Without a doubt, the number one holiday visit you must make in New York is to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. I'll admit it. The first time I saw it, I was underwhelmed. The tree looks larger than life on TV! But it's not just the tree that makes the scene magical. Don't get me wrong. The tree is still pretty gigantic, but it's that combined with the famous ice skating rink below it that truly makes the scene worth remembering. Keep in mind that Rockefeller Center is extremely crowded during the holiday weekends; I've had better luck on a weekday. Through January 7, 2013

Friday, December 7, 2012

Paul's Birthday (Observed) at Peter Luger Steakhouse

I suspected that Paul's birthday today would get somewhat lost in the shuffle. He wouldn't complain, but I also didn't want to give him a chance to.

So this year I gave him his present a full month early. On November 7, I told him we had reservations that weekend to Peter Luger Steakhouse.

Paul always wants to go to Peter Luger for special occasions, and I never do. The reason is simple: I don't like steak. But Paul likes it enough for both of us. And this year I got reservations during lunchtime, when Peter Luger offers a hamburger.

He, of course, ordered the giant single steak, medium rare, and a slice of the famous bacon, thickly cut. (Photos here, from the only other time we visited the steakhouse.) We split an order of creamed spinach-for-two. My well-done hamburger was obviously made with high-quality meat, although I slathered on the Peter Luger sauce for some flavor. I missed Paul's spice rubs.

Paul's beer and Bloody Mary were off-limits to the still-pregnant me, so we ended the meal with a tall hot fudge sundae, in which Paul kindly allowed me to scoop up the thick spoonfuls of fudge at the bottom. At the end of the meal, I waddled out the door, but not because of the baby.

Even though the meal was certainly for Paul, I couldn't help but think that it might be the last "nice" meal out we would have in a while. Besides this single trip to Williamsburg, I don't think we even left the neighborhood to go out to eat during the entire month of November and into December. Not the end of the world, of course, but it is a change in lifestyle nonetheless. I suspect we'll be getting take-out and delivery much more over the next couple of months!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Becoming a Mother Fast

Can Edith really be two weeks old already? Of course I had always heard that babies grow up so fast, but I never expected that I would feel that way so soon. She's already grown out of some of her newborn outfits -- luckily all gifts -- and she never even wore a couple out of the five-pack of onesies we received.

But despite what the tags on her clothes say, she is definitely still a newborn. And I'm definitely still adjusting to her ways. Deciphering whimpers. Changing diapers in the middle of the night. Feeding her at 4 in the morning when I'm half asleep myself.

I've learned to become a mother quickly. Of course, I had no choice. And luckily, the things I was worried about the most haven't been that bad.

She's not as fragile as I feared, and I haven't come close to dropping her as I carry her up and down the stairs in our apartment building. Breastfeeding is going smoothly -- she seems to be gaining the right amount of weight, and there's no problems latching. And even though I would prefer a straight, solid eight hours of sleep, right now I'm happy getting three in a row.

I still have to work on a few things -- changing diapers and giving baths too fast for her to cry, to name two -- but things are going well. Although I'm still learning, I feel more confident in my abilities. Even at the end of the worst day (and I know there will yet be worse), I know I can do this.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Exploring Eataly in New York City

Eataly -- best known for its affiliation with Mario Batali and its variety of restaurants -- is a high-end Italian grocer right around the corner from Madison Square Park.

Its New York location opened amid much fanfare in the summer of 2010. Since then, Paul and I have lazily talked about visiting, but it just never happened. Once, on my 30th birthday, we tried to go up to the rooftop bar after celebrating at the nearby Shake Shack. The wait was too long, however. We went home.

In October, we decided to give Eataly another chance. Our wait to get a table at the Gramercy Tavern was going to be 90 minutes to two hours, and we were both hungry. So we walked to the nearby Eataly to see what we could find for an appetizer to our main courses coming later that evening.

Truth be told, Eataly is simply overwhelming. Maybe it was because it was a busy Saturday night, maybe it's because there's just so many places to turn. The food to buy and take home, a la normal grocery store, is sitting right next to the kitchen supplies, is sitting right next to the dozen or so restaurants and dessert eateries.

The entire space is more than 50,000 square feet, according to Wikipedia. We certainly didn't see all of it; we were too hungry. We made a quick round of the space nearest the entry, scanning the restaurants. Each one focuses on a different food: fish, pizza and pasta, and panini, for example. We chose the vegetable-focused restaurant, grabbing a couple of seats at the "bar" instead of the nearby tables. Either way, shoppers were milling about the eaters; a very different experience.

The "bar" area where we ate.

We ordered a plate of fried vegetables, Paul got a beer and we polished off a plate of bread dipped in olive oil while we waited. The food was delicious, and the atmosphere perfect for people watchers. The crowds show that the diners agree that the restaurants are excellent, but when push comes to shove, this really is pretty much just a series of cafeterias in an expensive grocery store.

Eataly isn't a place I'd frequent often, but it was perfect for the time we had to spare.


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